It's Thursday and we've got the Your Best 11 Mailbag, which is always fun. Last week, we went all in on one question, but we're now back to the regularly scheduled program of multiple questions. Got some good ones this week so let's get into it.
With all the hullabaloo surrounding the Charlotte Observer's Jadeveon Clowney article from earlier this week, this question has come up a time or two. I don't expect to see it, especially not in the explicit terms given, where a kid just decides to forgo his third year and says he's going to work out and do draft prep.
However, I do think that other circumstances would lend themselves to guys being okay with not getting that third year of film in the books.
First and foremost, injury. We've already seen Sam Bradford, hurt during the season, elect not to comeback for that extra year to prove he's healthy. I definitely think that if a guy gets hurt in spring or camp, sitting out the entire year and doing draft prep is a real option. Knile Davis probably would have been better served leaving after 2011, even though he didn't carry the ball once.
Another instance where circumstance could dictate sitting out would be a suspension or a dismissal. Generally, guys serve their suspensions and pick up later in the season. If the suspension is substantial, might as well cut bait and get ready for the league instead of returning to school, a la Robert Quinn of UNC.
As for dismissals, ordinarily guys go to a smaller division school to play. Meh, just go work out if you're a high pick.
Long-term, I expect someone is going to pull yet another Maurice Clarett and try to challenge the age limit on the NFL. With the injury info we now have, it'll be interesting to see it play out.
This is a tricky question because it juggles who is the best guy coming in, who is going to grasp the playbook quickly, who has the opportunity to play early and whose team is going to position them for success.
The guys that I like—a lot of the safeties and corners—aren't going to materialize as quickly because of the transition that they have to go through. I'd pick one of the defensive linemen like Robert Nkemdiche or Montravius Adams, but I don't think either is going to step on the field and dominate from day one.
Now that I've talked all the way around it, if you're looking for biggest on-field impact, you have to go with someone who will play early and often. I'm going with a running back. We've seen Michael Dyer, Marcus Lattimore, Todd Gurley and Johnathan Gray come in and have big impacts early.
This year, I'm going to take three for the price of one: Derrick Green, Greg Bryant and Kelvin Taylor.
Green is a Michigan kid and I think he's the every-down, 18-25-carries-a-game guy that Brady Hoke is looking for. Out of the big class the Wolverines signed, he's the kid who will likely lead the revolution into the pro-style, pound-the-ball system first before his classmates hit the field in the coming seasons.
Greg Bryant fits that same ideal at Notre Dame. I know folks like George Atkinson III a lot and he's a home run hitter, but I'm not sold that he can be an every-down back. I think Bryant has the ability as well as the patience and vision to be useful in the stretch zone that the Irish like to run.
Last, but not least, Kelvin Taylor, the running back stepping in for the Gators. Patience, one-cut speed and a downhill runner. He'll get a shot to play, and if he looks good, I don't think he'll come off the field much. Sort of like Mike Gillislee this season.
The techniques are a lot more commonplace now than ever. Obviously, Nick Saban's guys use it, but the Stoops brothers have made it work. As has Brent Venables, now at Clemson. Jim Mora's guys do it out west. Pat Narduzzi at Michigan State uses it, especially in his blitz packages.
It's pretty widespread—just used in varying degrees.
Now, getting comfortable with it is a whole new story. That largely boils down to individuals understanding the concepts.
For players who put pieces of the defense together to see the whole, it isn't difficult. For players who understand what an offense's goals are and how they can hurt you, it isn't difficult.
For players who only see their tree in the forest that is the entire game plan, pattern reading can be tough. In other words, when you don't understand how the puzzle pieces of the defense work together and you don't get where and how a receiving threat can hurt you, you end up in no man's land.
It's pretty easy to see guys who don't understand concepts because they only play technique and rules. They don't understand that you can eliminate a lot of the route tree for a given receiver just based upon their alignment. They don't understand that you can anticipate and jump hot routes because of the blitz that's been dialed up.
This ultimately goes back to understanding how the whole defense works. If guys pay attention to the big picture, then they can get it. If they only play small, then they miss out.
@inthebleachers why are spread teams splitting OL coaching duties: G/C and T/TE?— AJ Fritsche (@Fritsche12) February 14, 2013
I've noticed this too. Ultimately, it's a move to work two separate blocking teams into a system—the three guys inside working as one, while the two guys on the outside work as a separate unit. They talk, they make calls, but ultimately the blocking tight ends and tackles are more directly tied to one another, while the interior linemen do their own thing.
I'm not a huge fan of it. Personally, I prefer the fat guys to all work together. Then the less-fat guys like tight ends, Flex and fullbacks work together. Let the skinny dudes do whatever in the backfield and on the edge.
In other words, I like for the offensive line to be one massive unit that goes through most everything together, gets taught the same technique and watches all its film together.
Tight ends, Fs and fullbacks live a hybrid lifestyle. A lot of times, they will work closely with offensive linemen, even going to meetings, to work out fixes for blitz pickup and specific stunts teams run.
That said, I'm more in the old school where Ys, Fs and fullbacks are primarily run-blockers and only additions in pass protection.